Team United with the Outstanding Foreign Workers Awardees (back L-R) Cynthia Ballenas, Rocky Singson, Gilda Legaspi-Steifel, Zenaida Santos, Erlinda Roodal, Grace Baldiserri, Therese Rodriguez, Greg Agulan (front L-R) Jesse Tomelden, Rodrigo Mariano, Melie Sia-Kadava, Rene Ballenas, Consul General Mario Lopez De Leon, Liza Galon, Marvin Cadornigara, Joy Abraham, Monsignor Oscar Aquino and Nida Cortez.  (All photos by AJ Images)

The Team United Maharlika Foundation, Inc. (TUMFI) recently held (Sept.13) its 4th Anniversary Gala night at the Astoria World Manor in Astoria, N.Y.

The highly successful event celebrated the civic organization’s continuing efforts and dedication towards community service, socio-cultural unity, volunteerism and positive change within the Filipino-American demographic of the New York tri-state area.
Spearheading the ceremonies were the current TUMFI officers, namely, Rene Ballenas, Founder/President; Greg Agulan, EVP/COO; Nida Cortez, SVP Corp. Secretary/Awards Committee Chair; Cynthia Ballenas, SVP Human Resources; Rick Respicio, SVP/CFO; Ria Serrano, SVP Operations.

They were supported by VP’s Kay Habana, Ariel Aggabao, Merlyn Loja, and Elena Bahian; Incoming officers Joyce Andes-David and Arman David, as well as event staff and executives Lett Dayao, Medy Hidalgo, Zita Lapena, Mila De Castro, Bing Edio and Yuka Agulan.

The formal black-tie and ball gown event, chaired by SVP Cynthia Ballenas, was highlighted by the presentation of the 2nd Annual Most Outstanding Overseas Foreign Workers Awards, the First Annual Maharlika Awards, and the First-of-its-kind TUMFI 2015 Ambassador of Goodwill Title, to the most deserving civic-minded individuals.

TUMFI launched the Overseas Foreign Workers Awards in 2014, with the desire to recognize hardworking individuals who were born outside the USA, and excel in their chosen fields of expertise here but, more importantly, who use that success and privilege to make a vital contribution to their country of birth as well as here in the United States of America.

For 2015, the Most Outstanding Overseas Foreign Workers Awardees, and their respective fields are: Joy Abraham for Nursing, Marvin Cadornigara for Education, Lisa Galon for Caregiving, Melie Sia Kadava for Entrepreneurship, Rodrigo Mariano for Military Service, Therese R, Rodriguez for Advocacy, Erlinda Roodal for Home Management, Grace Baldiserri for Arts & Poetry, Zenaida E. Santos for Medicine, Gilda Legaspi-Steifel for Religion, Zahid Syed for Government Service, and Jess B. Tomelden for Architecture.


Team United with Maharlika Awardees (Back L-R) Cynthia Ballenas, Rene Ballenas, Nena Smith, Maritess Pabalan, Dr. Dolly Rivera, Consul General Mario Lopez De Leon, Nida Cortez, Greg Agulan (Front L-R) James Zourzoukis, Michelle Liang, April Talangbayan, John Gadia, Robert and Teresa Denosta, Bayani Lapena of APAFI.

The newly-conceived Maharlika Awards were bestowed to individuals, couples and organizations that have done their humanitarian and charitable deeds for their community and beyond, regardless of their birthplace!

These are the extraordinary people and organizations whose “noble”aspirations have immensely contributed to the welfare and empowerment of the needy, oppressed and impoverished.

For 2015, the first class of Maharlika Awardees consists of: The Association of Pangasinenses in America Foundation, Inc. (APAFI), James Zourzoukis, Robert and Teresa Denosta,  John Gadia, April Talangbayan, and Ms. Michelle Rosario Liang.

Furthermore, the prestigious title of 2015 Ambassador of Goodwill was also conferred to Maritess Pabalan (a 2014 Outstanding Overseas Foreign Worker Awardee in her own right, in the field of Geriatric Nursing), for her invaluable community service, thus patronage and support of all TUMFI activities.

Her involvement and generosity will surely continue as she performs the duties of Ambassador for the next 12 months.

The program proper was opened by the Parade of Colors / National Flags, and Processional March.

Next, Ms. Gail Banawis, singer, actor, model and New York’s pride, led the gathered in the singing of the National Anthems.

A multi-denominational Invocation came next, led by Bishop Greg Agulan, Monsignor Oscar Aquino, and two other pastors.  

A Welcome Address from Ball Chairwoman Cynthia Ballenas followed.

Then, the Presidential Message from Rene Ballenasensued, outlining the accomplishments and plans of TUMFI.

In his succeeding Inspirational Message, Consul General Mario De Leon, Jr. praised the awardees, and exhorted the audience to unite, inspire more, help other people, and maintain their civic vigilance and sense of patriotism.


Team United with Major Sponsor Western Union (L-R) Cynthia Ballenas, Rene Ballenas, Awardee James Zourzoukis, Consul General Mario Lopez De Leon, Western Union Diaspora Manager Mylz Tolentino, Nida Cortez and Greg Agulan.


Team United


Emcees Ria Serrano and Ariel Aggabao, with Event Director Joyce Andes-David (right).

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